1 06, 2015

Does the Torah allow polygamy?

By |2015-06-01T04:55:57-07:00June 1st, 2015|Thoughts|

                                                                                                                  Does the Torah allow polygamy?   The Torah “allows” polygamy, but frowns upon it. Its treatment of polygamy is a good example of Maimonides’ teaching in his Guide of the Perplexed 3:32 where the sage stated that humanity during the Torah’s early history was primitive; while God could change human nature, God did [...]

11 05, 2015

Understanding Jonah rationally

By |2015-05-11T05:12:51-07:00May 11th, 2015|Thoughts|

                                                               Understanding Jonah rationally   Should we accept the biblical book Jonah, including Jonah surviving in the belly of a fish for three days and three nights and his brawling with God, as fact or as an internal scuffle? We need to know Maimonides’ view of prophecy and that repentance is not a [...]

3 05, 2015

Unusual explanations in Midrashim on Jonah

By |2015-05-03T06:11:47-07:00May 3rd, 2015|Jewish Books|

                                                 Unusual explanations in Midrashim on Jonah   Midrashim, the singular is Midrash, are many books composed over centuries that contain laws as well as a myriad of legends. The name is derived from the Hebrew root d-r-sh, to sermonize and to expound. In the beginning of his book Chelek, Maimonides warns that [...]

5 04, 2015

Does the Bible teach the truth?

By |2015-04-05T13:39:57-07:00April 5th, 2015|Thoughts|

  Why were changes made in Torah laws necessary and why should Jews obey these changes since they differ from the divine Torah law?   Maimonides wrote in his Guide of the Perplexed 3:32 that the Torah had to write laws that the Israelites could accept, laws that were not ideal. The Israelites accepted “the customs [...]

15 02, 2015

Not all rabbinical changes of biblical laws were good

By |2015-02-15T08:02:09-07:00February 15th, 2015|Thoughts|

                                                                   Not all rabbinical changes of biblical laws were good   Some of the chapters in Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed, such as 2:48 where he tells us that when the Bible states that God did something it should be understood as an act of nature, are startling and the kind of ideas that [...]

11 02, 2015

More on Maimonides and Spinoza

By |2015-02-11T06:49:29-07:00February 11th, 2015|Thoughts|

  In my last article in which I compared Maimonides and Spinoza, I mentioned that I wrote more extensively on the subject in my book “Maimonides: The Exceptional Mind.” Here is one chapter.   How Baruch Spinoza Borrowed His Basic Philosophy from ibn Ezra and Maimonides Non-Jews consider Baruch (or Benedict) de Spinoza an esteemed [...]

8 02, 2015

Spinoza taught what Maimonides taught before him

By |2015-02-08T13:02:59-07:00February 8th, 2015|Thoughts|

                                                        Spinoza taught what Maimonides taught before him   One of the reasons why people are unable to accept changes in religion is that they think it is improper to change past traditions and thinking. They fail to realize that the more educated members of their religion had known the truth that is being [...]

4 02, 2015

Prophets, rabbis, and philosophers changed the Decalogue

By |2015-02-04T12:33:23-07:00February 4th, 2015|Thoughts|

                                                                         Prophets, rabbis, and philosophers changed the Decalogue   I have been mentioning that Judaism has changed many biblical commands. In my book “Mysteries of Judaism, I showed that the rabbis modified every one of the biblical holidays, without exception. One would think that the rabbis would not alter the Decalogue, the fundamental biblical [...]

18 12, 2014

What should one die for?

By |2014-12-18T11:02:19-07:00December 18th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                                               What should one die for?   The film “Monuments Men” tells how men risked their lives to save European works of art from being stolen or destroyed by the Nazis. Two of the men were killed during their somewhat successful endeavors. The film’s premise is that it is good to give up [...]

2 12, 2014

Maimonides’ radical ideas

By |2014-12-02T09:52:37-07:00December 2nd, 2014|Thoughts|

                                                                    Point to Ponder: Maimonides   Think about this. I have been saying that there are many divergent interpretations of the Guide of the Perplexed by the great sage Moses Maimonides (1138-1204). Some scholars, such as Leo Strauss of the University of Chicago and I, are convinced that Maimonides wrote for two audiences, [...]

24 11, 2014

Does God Control and Manipulate Us?

By |2014-11-24T06:54:23-07:00November 24th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                                                                                Does God Control and Manipulate Us?   Since the beginning of time, since people believed that God exists, men and women of every religion asked whether God is involved in their lives and, if so, how? The Hebrew Bible does not answer this question. So individuals developed their own views. Those with a [...]

29 09, 2014

Three tales with profound lessons

By |2014-10-03T02:09:27-07:00September 29th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                             Three rabbinical tales with profound rational lessons[1]   Maimonides, in his Commentary on the Mishnah, Introduction to Perek Chelek, describes how one should understand rabbinical stories and declares that most people do not deal with rabbinic Midrashim[2] correctly. According to Maimonides, three clusters of people exist, each taking a radically different approach to [...]

28 09, 2014

Three shocking Maimonides lessons

By |2014-09-28T21:25:11-07:00September 28th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                                 Three shocking Maimonides lessons   Maimonides reveals three significant secrets in his Guide of the Perplexed 3:28 that will surprise many people, many of whom will disagree with him. (1) The Torah does not teach everything that people should know, (2) some teachings in the Torah are not true, and (3) Torah laws are [...]

27 09, 2014

Ibn Ezra’s “Secret of the Twelve”

By |2014-09-27T22:18:25-07:00September 27th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                                         Ibn Ezra’s “Secret of the Twelve”[1]   The Torah’s final chapter presents a serious theological dilemma. The following is a brief history of how some scholars handled this dilemma.   Questions Did Moses write the entire Torah? Do traditional Jewish commentators differ on the subject?   Who wrote the story of the death of [...]

19 09, 2014

The Bizarre Belief in Evil Angels – part 2

By |2014-09-19T02:56:01-07:00September 19th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                               The Bizarre Belief in Evil Angels                                                                    Part 2   Medieval Jewish Bible Commentators Accept the Existence of Angelic Beings Many medieval Bible commentators were not affected by rational philosophy. Principal among them is Rabbi Solomon Yitzchaqi (Rashi), Moses ben Nachman (Nachmanides) and Abraham Saba (born 1407). These Bible commentators accepted the [...]

19 09, 2014

The Bizarre Belief in Evil Angels – part 1

By |2014-09-19T02:40:47-07:00September 19th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                                     The Bizarre Belief in Evil Angels                                                                     Part one[1]   Since, as we saw in earlier essays that I wrote, demons and evil angels played such a large part in the lives of many Jews, it is advisable to explore the origin of the belief in some depth. The average Jew today is [...]

13 09, 2014

Bribing Satan: Part Two

By |2014-09-13T23:12:53-07:00September 13th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                                                     Bribing Satan: Part Two[1]   The Tashlich service was not the only High Holiday ceremony that the masses felt they must observe to avoid having Satan harm them. The eighth-century Midrash Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer is a rather unusual volume of biblical folk legends that many Jews insisted were true. The Pirkei author believed that [...]

13 09, 2014

The Tashlich Ceremony: Bribing Satan

By |2014-09-13T23:08:48-07:00September 13th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                                         The Tashlich Ceremony: Bribing Satan[1]   Tashlich is a rite whose non-rational basis is obvious. It preserves a superstitious belief held by many people in ancient times concerning water and the divine beings that dwell in and around it. The rite has been reinterpreted over time, modified slightly and rationalized, but its original [...]

11 09, 2014

Strange ideas of Nachmanides

By |2014-09-11T23:46:38-07:00September 11th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                                      Strange ideas of Nachmanides                                    His notion concerning the Sanctity of Israel[1]     The biblical portion Ki Tavo, Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8, mentions laws that Israelites were expected to observe when they entered Canaan, later called Israel. This affords us an opportunity to discuss the sanctity of the land of Israel.   Many [...]

11 09, 2014

The Anti-Jewish Origin of Kapparot

By |2014-09-11T06:32:16-07:00September 11th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                                                                                                     The Anti-Jewish Origin of Kapparot [1] The practice of kapparot and tashlich, celebrated by many Jews, is not considered to be rational by many other Jews and Maimonides did not include them in his Mishneh Torah, his code of Jewish law. The term kapparot denotes an offering tendered in the hope of gaining forgiveness [...]

1 07, 2014

How to read the Bible

By |2014-07-01T07:52:52-07:00July 1st, 2014|Book Reviews|

                                                         This book shows us how to read the Bible   Peshat Isn’t so Simple By Rabbi Hayyim Angel Kodesh Press, 2014, 311 pages   For over two millennia most Jewish Bible commentators did not explain the Bible’s plain meaning, called “peshat” in Hebrew, but used the biblical verses and events as sources for [...]

29 06, 2014

Did the non-Israelite prophet Baalam exist?

By |2014-06-29T06:12:23-07:00June 29th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                           Did the non-Israelite prophet Baalam exist?   There is disagreement in the ancient Jewish sources whether Balaam, the non-Israelite prophet who tried to curse Israel, actually existed, or if he did exist, did parts of the story really happen. Whether he existed or not, there is no consensus as to whether he was [...]

22 06, 2014

An unusual interpretation of Cain and Abel’s sacrifice

By |2014-06-22T13:39:49-07:00June 22nd, 2014|Thoughts|

                                           An unusual interpretation of Cain and Abel’s sacrifice   Most people know no more about the Bible than what they learned as children or what they heard their clergy tell them in a sermon, which was not designed to reveal what the Bible says but some moral lesson the clergy feels the [...]

1 06, 2014

Beha’alotcha – Maimonides vs. Aristotle on the Golden Mean

By |2014-06-01T06:54:24-07:00June 1st, 2014|Thoughts|

                                                                                            Beha’alotcha                                                           Maimonides vs. Aristotle on the Golden Mean[1]   Numbers 12:3 informs us that “the man Moses was very humble, more than any person on the face of the earth.” Midrash Sifrei elaborates: although Moses’s humility did not hinder him from confronting Pharaoh and demanding the release of the Israelites from the [...]

14 05, 2014

Were the Ten Plagues in Egypt Miracles?

By |2014-05-15T05:18:26-07:00May 14th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                          Were the Ten Plagues in Egypt Miracles?   Most people read, or more precisely “skim,” the Bible in Hebrew or another language without understanding what they are reading. They are satisfied that they have read the Bible, as they read prayers, and feel that they have done something pious, good and necessary; however, [...]

27 04, 2014

Is this perfection?

By |2014-04-27T16:09:23-07:00April 27th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                                                                      EMOR                                                                    (Chapter 21:1–24:23)                                                                    What is Perfection?[1]   Deuteronomy 21 states “No male among the seed of Aaron the priest who has a blemish may approach to offer a sacrifice to the Lord …he may not profane my sacred places” (verses 21 and 23). This injunction, seeking “perfection,” includes the prohibition of [...]

25 04, 2014

The Guide of the Perplexed

By |2014-11-26T11:32:27-07:00April 25th, 2014|Book Reviews|

  The Guide of the Perplexed By Moses Maimonides   One of the most significant and life changing books ever written is Moses Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed. Maimonides lived from 1138 to 1204. Many people consider him the most important person since Moses who handed Israel God’s revelation. Others are convinced that he is [...]

20 04, 2014

Kedoshim – The Superman

By |2014-04-20T07:24:32-07:00April 20th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                                                                        KEDOSHIM                                                                             (Chapters 19:1–20:27)                                                                                  What is Holiness?   Leviticus 19:2 describes God commanding: “You must be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” What is God demanding? While most people think holiness is a special quality they need to add to their behavior, modern scholars accept the ancient understanding in [...]

6 04, 2014

Did Moses write the entire Torah?

By |2014-04-06T07:51:53-07:00April 6th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                                                                       Ibn Ezra’s “Secret of the Twelve”   Did Moses write the entire Torah? Do traditional Jewish commentators differ on the subject?   Who wrote the story of the death of Moses? The twelve verses of Deuteronomy chapter 34 tell the story of the death of Moses. The introductory four verses narrate how God told [...]

27 03, 2014

Judges 6 – Gideon: The hesitant judge who struggled

By |2014-04-01T09:15:47-07:00March 27th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                                                                        Chapter 6                                                         Gideon: The hesitant judge who struggled   Chapter 6-8 introduces readers to the judge Gideon. In chapter 6 he has several experiences which could be taken at face value and understood as supernatural events or as the internal struggles of an anxious man. The Israelites lived in peace after [...]